A Glimpse of the Queen’s Life
There was always something about “Cat” – that’s what everyone who knew and loved
Catherine Wilson called her. From the start, her character fascinated folks. Her mother, Virgie
Lee Brown, lovingly known as “Big Annie,” birthed her on April 26, 1942, in Holly Hill, SC, and
always gladly related how her fourth child was different from the very beginning.
Cat chose to start and complete household tasks regardless of how much muscle she had to
muster. She was only three – seriously – when her mama pegged her as an extraordinary
organizer, cleaner, and caretaker.
Now, don’t forget. This was the 1940s when washboards, not washing machines, were
standard. Chicken dinners came from the chicken coop, not KFC, Bojangles’, or Popeyes.
Children worked in the fields planting and harvesting crops. Time wasn’t spent running through
Cat was a kid whose light shined unusually bright because she was a master of a couple of
things all before she turned five: making plain things pretty and putting her whole heart into
loving people without fail. She was a proper little girl who grew up to be a queen of class and
kindness. Therefore, when Jesus decided to take her back at 8:22 a.m. Friday, January 28, 2022,
after a brief stay at Summerville Medical Center in Summerville, SC, her departure from Earth
to Heaven was a painful farewell for her beloved family and friends that cherished this
She was one of six children; the one notably afraid of baby chicks; the one her oldest sister,
Helen, could con into naively being a part of numerous pranks; and the one who surprised her
mama and got married at 16 to a handsome and determined 20-year-old man named Heyward
Wilson. Her man took her to New York, and Cat was thrilled because she was in love and away
from her devoted but strict mama.
The Big Apple and Big Annie’s daughter had numerous adventures. Her jobs as a young woman
varied and included time spent working at the lunch counter at Woolworth’s and the New York
A lover of high heels, she would wear them to work every day. She would brag later to her
daughters, Jacqueline (Jackie) and Johanna (Joey), how she finessed endless steps in high heels
without losing her breath.
Cat, however, always knew how to take one’s breath away. Her God-given talent for decorating
amazed people. Before interior designers were in vogue, Cat was known for her knack to
beautify any domain. Her designs were never gaudy. Family, friends, and groups would ask her
to decorate spaces for them. She constantly obliged, used all of her items – including
silverware, glassware, and tablecloths – and never charged anyone.
Cat loved to “fancify” whatever and whomever she could. Her daughters were walking
billboards displaying her immense gifts. Jackie and Joey were never without hair bows. They
both began wearing bows at birth, and they were big, which said a lot since Joey, the youngest
daughter, always had a big head. The bows Cat placed on her girls’ heads were wide, adorable,
and perfectly complemented their clothes. Still, her daughters grew weary of wearing hair
ribbons. Joey somehow managed to convince her to stop placing them in her hair in the fourth
grade. Jackie was not as successful – pictures are proof that she continued her ribbon journey
into high school.
Life in Cat’s house required you to have style. Like it or not. Her work attire and church clothes
were always punctuated by elegance. Her purse and shoes always matched. She was known as
the “Hat Lady’’ because she never worshipped without wearing a hat that topped off an
extraordinary outfit she donned, one always accented by gloves.
Her style was effortless, undeniable, and at one time, a magnet for a mugger. While coming
home from work in New York, a mugger grabbed her purse. Cat didn’t let go, and the mugger
dragged her along for a while before giving up. She arrived home with her purse, scarred knees,
and her high heels.
She spent decades in New York and sent goodies back home to her family at every opportunity.
Eventually, she would bring her youngest sibling, Virginia Townsend, and some of her closest
cousins to spend time with her in the Big Apple, where they worked and had fun. Some of them
eventually chose to call New York home, too.
When Cat and her husband moved back to Holly Hill, SC, she eventually went to night school,
received her high school diploma, attended South Carolina State University, and later worked
several decades as a substitute teacher with Orangeburg County School District Three.
She was adored by her students. Many of them called her their favorite teacher. Period. When
some of those pupils heard of her transition, they shared their adoration and admiration for her
on social media.
“This woman (was) a legend,” said Randall Smith, one of her former students who she taught in
the 7th grade. “She had a personality that just stood out. Her presence spoke volumes. It was
always exciting to hear that Mrs. Wilson was going to be our substitute teacher.”
Her love for students was unmatched. She would discreetly buy things they needed and keep
them straight by giving them a genealogy breakdown that proved she knew their family tree
and who to contact, if necessary.
“Boy, why are you acting up?” Cat would say. “Don’t you know I know your grandmama and
Her genuine affection for children was also demonstrated extensively for many years as a foster
parent for Growing Home Southeast. The children who lived in her home were her own,
although she didn’t give birth to them. Each child was treated like her very own children and
two granddaughters, Asia and Africa, both of whom she raised.
“She wasn’t a foster anything,” said her youngest granddaughter, Africa “Pumpkin” Brown.
“She was a mother to everyone who stayed in her home. There wasn’t a single child who left
her home and didn’t go on to have a more meaningful life.’’
Cat became this woman of great heart and great stature mostly because of her unwavering
faith in Jesus. She became a member of Greater Target AME Church in her youth. As she grew
up in God, she heightened her work for the Lord by working in whatever capacities that would
aid her in being a blessing to the Body of Christ. Her service to the church included numerous
years working with the Stewardess Board, Pastor’s Aide Board, and Lay Organization. She was
also a beloved class leader. A highlight of her church life was attending annual African
Methodist Episcopal conferences, where pastors and other attendees praised her for the
beautiful hats and suits she wore and for the humble assistance she offered.
Her love for the AME church was never about “show” but showing up. For example, it seemed
that Cat went to funerals every week. She always kept sympathy cards inside her nightstand.
When someone she knew died—and she knew countless people – she was off with her
sympathy cards in hand. Each had cash or a check inside. Her oldest sister, Helen, was her
funeral partner and helped her be on time as much as possible. “C’mon Cat,’’ Helen would say.
“Hurry up, or we are going to be late.” Soon, they were off to grieve and give together. If Cat
stopped by to see you in good times or bad, she showed up with kindness and cash.
Her oldest granddaughter, Asia Davis, said she was impactful in the church and community
because she knew how to lead while being a dedicated worker and follower. It was the epitome
of her personality that manifested in every aspect of her life.
“She may have been the quietest person in the room, but you knew she was there,’’ Asia said.
“She personified love and elegance in any place. She could never be duplicated.”
Catherine’s heart was what it was – big and boundless. Jesus made her that way, and she
exuded this soul reality consistently.
She was also a faithful and devoted friend who never wavered in loyalty.
“She was my sweet Cat,” said Dorothy “Pepper” Brown, one of Cat’s closest confidantes. “She
told me she loved me every night before we ended our phone calls.”
Cat was the go-to babysitter for her great-grandchildren. During the school week, she would sit
on her front porch or peek out of a window until the school bus arrived. Shortly before her
death, she gave the bus driver a $20 tip for dropping her great-grandchildren off at her front
door. Once they exited the bus, they rushed to hug her and share their day. Then, they all went
inside to enjoy whatever snacks and early dinner she prepared.
She was a phenomenal cook, astute conversationalist, and one of the neighborhood’s hawks –
she made sure she knew or found out about everybody who came into the community.
Cat loved CNN and her favorite anchors, Don Lemon and Chris Cuomo. When Cuomo was fired,
she understood why but she was hurt by it.
“I liked Chris,” she said as if she knew him personally. She watched CNN enough because she
spent untold hours watching the network’s news shows without ever getting bored.
The people who knew her best never disturbed her while she watched “The Have & Have
Nots.” The people who knew her best knew never to touch the radio dial in her car. She
enjoyed listening to Mahalia Jackson, but she was also known for turning up the volume to tap
her feet to soul and blues legends, including B.B. King – who personally called her on Mother’s
Day 2008 to tell her Happy Mother’s Day. They spoke for nearly 10 minutes, and Cat shared
how she stood in the snow for hours to see him and James Brown perform as a young bride at
the Apollo Theatre. And yes, she had on high heels.
Cat thoroughly enjoyed life and was thankful to Jesus her good days far outweighed her bad
days. She relished traveling and was blessed to travel extensively. Her favorite places were in
the Caribbean, including the Bahamas, Jamaica, Turks & Caicos, Aruba, and Curaçao.
Yet, when Jesus took her on her final journey, we, her family and friends, didn’t want her to go.
Nevertheless, Cat always said, “Remember God is too wise and too just to make a mistake.”
Our queen, our matriarch, and our legend, we understand but our hearts are not listening.
Forever, you will be loved and missed.
Cat was preceded in death by her husband, Heyward Wilson, and siblings George Brown,
Margaret Stephens, Mary Randolph, and Helen Johnson; and her dear mother, Virgie Lee
Cat leaves behind loving family members and friends to cherish precious memories: two proud
daughters who knew Jesus gave them a gem, Jacqueline Wilson of Holly Hill, SC, and Johanna D.
Jones of Myrtle Beach, SC; one devoted sister who unwaveringly stood by her side, Virginia
Townsend of Holly Hill, SC; her loyal granddaughters, Asia Davis of Elloree, SC, and Africa
“Pumpkin” Brown of Summerville, SC; one dear son-in-law, Marvin Jones of Myrtle Beach, SC;
one handy grandson-in-law, Adrin Davis of Elloree; five great-grandchildren that were always
wrapped tight in her love, Amiyah Davis of Greensboro, NC, Ayden Helton of Tokyo, Japan,
Ashtyn Givens of Elloree, SC, Azarian Burroughs of Summerville, SC, and Aydrian “AJ’’ Davis of
Elloree, SC, and a faithful village of a close-knit family anchored by her nieces, nephews,
cousins, and other kinfolks. Her friends were golden too, and they are also too multitudinous to
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